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How to Clean a Couch

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First, we'll look at the basics of cleaning a couch on your own. Then there will be some suggestions for when to hire help and how to negotiate a better price.

To thoroughly clean a couch you should first remove the cushions (assuming they are removable). Vacuum the cushions, as well as all surfaces on the couch. The back may not look dirty, but it will have collected dust, so get that too. Use the vacuum attachments to get down into the cracks and crevices. You may want to reach down there to search for loose change first.

If there is a window nearby, open the blinds and let the sun in. Then smack the upholstery with the flat of your hand to see if dust is still coming out. If so, vacuum again. If there are exposed wooden parts, clean those with a damp clean white rag.

Before you go any further you might want to check to see if the couch is still under warranty. If it is, you may void the warranty by using certain cleaning solutions. In that case, follow the manufacturer's recommendations or stick to just vacuuming.

If there is no warranty issue, check the tags on the bottom of the couch (sometimes they are under the cushions) to see what kind of material you have. Buy a cleaner which is specifically meant for that type of upholstery. You can then use this in a rented rug shampooer to clean the fabric. It is usually a good idea to run warm water through the machine first, to be sure that there is no residue left from the last user.

Test the cleaning machine and shampoo on the back of the couch or in an area which is not normally visible. If you don't see any transfer of color from the fabric, or any discoloring, you should be good to go. Be sure to clean the entire couch so you don't have watermarks. Clean the cushions separately.

If you have a wet-dry vacuum it may do a better job than some rug shampooers for extracting the excess moisture. After you are done, place a fan where it can blow on the couch, and adjust the position occasionally so all areas dry quickly. Once everything is completely dry you can replace the cushions (do it before everything is dry and you might have mildew problems).

If you prefer to save the money you would spend for the shampooing machine, see the page How to Clean Upholstery.

If you have stains that will not come out, you can try the instructions for removing specific stains in carpet, although upholstery fabric may react differently. The pages covering all the different stain substances are listed on the homepage.

If you still can't get those stains out, you'll have to call a professional cleaner. Normally that means a carpet cleaner (not many companies do just upholstery). Ask if you can get a discount if you vacuum the couch first and have it ready (away from the wall, cushions removed). Otherwise, you might also get a better deal if you wait until you need the carpet cleaned and then get the couch cleaned as an extra service.

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